HEALTH authorities on Monday denied allegations that they had given preferential treatment to local politicians in testing them for the virus.

“The Department of Health (DoH) assures the public that there is no policy for VIP treatment and that all specimens are being processed on a first-in, first-out basis,” it said in a statement. Officials holding positions of national security were accorded “courtesy,” it added.

Social media netizens have criticized lawmakers and other politicians for undergoing tests even if some of them did not show symptoms.

The Health department earlier claimed the politicians had been eligible under old criteria that tested people who either had exposure or travel history.

It has since changed the criteria by prioritizing patients under investigation who are elderly, with underlying conditions and whose immune systems are compromised, it said.

The agency said “more cases will be detected and appropriately managed” as more test kits arrive and more laboratories are equipped to examine samples. The DoH has taken delivery of 100,000 testing kits donated by China.

Five national sub-laboratories were now processing 50 to 300 tests daily together with the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), DoH said on Saturday.

These laboratories are San Lazaro Hospital and Baguio General Hospital & Medical Center in Luzon; Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in the Visayas; and Southern Philippines Medical Center in Mindanao.

The Western Visayas Medical Center and Bicol Public Health Laboratory will undergo proficiency testing for a week before these can start testing samples.

Also yesterday, Philippine General Hospital Director Gerardo D. Legaspi said they have agreed to turn the hospital into a referral center that will handle COVID-19 patients.

“A scaling up system of preparation was agreed upon so as not to severely hamper the COVID-19 referral centers’ services to their currently admitted patients,” he said at a separate briefing. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas